Christmas morning. For many college basketball fans and bettors, that's what the first four days of the NCAA Tournament feel like.
Paul Stone, a professional sports handicapper from Tyler, Texas, had that feeling when he arrived in Las Vegas on Wednesday, eager to unwrap a few proverbial presents.
"This is one of the best times, in my opinion, to be in Vegas," said Stone, 46, who will share his selections with the Review-Journal throughout the tournament. "I love the first four days of the tournament, especially the first two days, because you've got so many games going simultaneously.
"You've got games coming down to the wire -- either the actual result or the point-spread result -- and there's so much collective energy from so many different people from different parts of the country.
"You throw it all together and it creates a real exciting environment. I enjoy that."
Stone, who plays all his picks on who2beton.com and vegas sportsauthority.com, said he has historically fared well betting on the NCAA Tournament.
He uses road power ratings to help him make his selections, along with team and conference matchups and trends.
His top play for today's first round is under 129 in the Brigham Young-Texas A&M game. Stone put $550 down on it Wednesday and said he might double that amount today.
Stone, who also took the Aggies as 11/2-point favorites for $385, expects BYU center Trent Plaisted to struggle against A&M's front line of DeAndre Jordan (7 feet, 260 pounds), Joseph Jones (6-9, 250) and Bryan Davis (6-9, 250).
"Those guys are physical. They're going to wear him down and make him work for his shots," he said.
Stone expects both teams to play solid defense and said "if you score 60 points in this game, I think you win."
Stone said he is unimpressed with the Mountain West Conference. He rates the Pac-10 as the top conference in the country and took 3-point favorite Southern California today over Kansas State for $660.
"USC has got some big wins on the road over UCLA, Oregon and Arizona," he said. "On the other hand, Kansas State is really weak on the road."
Stone, who is staying at the Las Vegas Hilton with his wife and teenage daughter, will try to pay for their spa treatments with additional plays on Temple, the Arizona-West Virginia over (137) and Baylor.